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Robert Johnson

Robert "Bob" Johnson, born June 17, 1935, in Chicago, was the older of two children born to Gladys and Robert. Johnson attended Roosevelt University in Chicago, earning a B.S. in sociology in 1958.

Following graduation, Johnson went on to work at the Chicago Housing Authority as a community relations aide. In 1965, he was hired at Sears Roebuck & Company, and rose to the position of vice president of specialty sales. In 1988, Johnson and his daughter partnered to form Bagcraft Corporation of America, a flexible packaging manufacturer, created as part of an initiative by PepsiCo and Frito-Lay to encourage the creation of minority-owned businesses suppliers. In 1991, Johnson and business partner Tom Bryce formed Johnson Bryce, Inc., as part of that same PepsiCo initiative. Johnson currently serves as CEO and chairman of the company. In 1997, with revenues exceeding $25 million, Johnson Bryce, Inc., was named the Frito-Lay Flexible Packaging Supplier of the Year.

Johnson is also active with several organizations and universities. He is a trustee of LeMoyne Owen College and a member of the board of trustees of Clemson University's Packaging Science Department. He is a founding member of the Executive Leadership Council, a nonprofit corporation that provides a networking and leadership forum for African American executives. Johnson also serves on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Johnson and his wife, Rose, live near Chicago and have two daughters.

Accession Number

A2003.172

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/1/2003

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Willard Elementary School

Du Sable Leadership Academy

Malcolm X College

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Roosevelt University

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

JOH14

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Carribean

Favorite Quote

You Can Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/17/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Memphis

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Corporate chief executive Robert Johnson (1935 - ) is the CEO of Johnson Bryce Co., a supplier of food packaging to PepsiCo.

Employment

Chicago Housing Authority

Sears Roebuck & Company

Bagcraft Corporation of America

Johnson Bryce, Inc.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192792">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Johnson's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192793">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Johnson talks about his family history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192794">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Johnson describes his home life as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192795">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Johnson describes his childhood personality and his mother, Gladys H. Johnson's work</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192796">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Johnson talks about his father, Robert L. Johnson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192797">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Johnson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt.1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192798">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Johnson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt.2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192799">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Johnson describes his grade school years at Willard Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192800">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert Johnson talks about his grade school teachers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192801">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Johnson remembers Mary Herrick, his teacher at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt.1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192802">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Johnson remembers Mary Herrick, his teacher at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt.2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192803">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Johnson remembers Mary Herrick, his teacher at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt.3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192804">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Johnson describes his childhood memories from the South Side of Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192805">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Johnson describes his experiences at Theodore Herzl Junior College in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192806">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Johnson compares the demographics of Theodore Herzl Junior College to the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192807">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Johnson talks about working in the library at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192808">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Johnson talks about his experience of racial discrimination at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192809">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Johnson explains his decision to leave the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192810">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Johnson describes his decision to enroll at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192811">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Johnson remembers being taught by anthropologist John Gibbs St. Clair Drake at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192812">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Johnson talks about his interest in sociology</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192813">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Johnson talks about joining the U.S. Army in 1958</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192814">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Johnson describes working at the Chicago Housing Authority after leaving the U.S. Army</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192815">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert Johnson talks about his role as assistant housing manager for the Chicago Housing Authority in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192816">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robert Johnson explains how his position at the Chicago Housing Authority sparked his interest in business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192817">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Johnson talks about business affairs at the Chicago Housing Authority</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192818">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Johnson talks about getting a job at Sears, Roebuck & Company, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192819">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Johnson talks about getting a job at Sears, Roebuck & Company, pt.2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192820">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Johnson describes his first six weeks at a Sears, Roebuck & Company store on 63rd Street and Halsted Avenue in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192821">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Johnson shares a memory of working in the toy department at Sears, Roebuck & Company during Christmas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192822">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Johnson recalls racial discrimination during his early years at Sears, Roebuck & Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192823">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert Johnson describes the riots around Sears Roebuck & Company in Chicago, Illinois after the 1968 assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192824">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert Johnson talks about racial discrimination in the corporate world</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192825">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert Johnson talks about the beginning of the Executive Leadership Council</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192826">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert Johnson describes the Executive Leadership Council</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192827">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert Johnson talks about the challenges of being an African American CEO</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192828">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert Johnson talks about HistoryMaker Richard Parsons</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192829">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert Johnson talks about challenges faced by African American executives in the corporate sector</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192830">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robert Johnson talks about leaving Sears, Roebuck & Company to start his own business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192831">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert Johnson reflects upon the permanency of racism in Corporate America</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192832">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert Johnson describes running his own company, Johnson Bryce, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192833">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert Johnson explains how he began Johnson Bryce, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192834">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert Johnson reflects on small business mergers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192835">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robert Johnson describes the growth of Johnson Bryce Inc. and the importance of small businesses</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192836">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robert Johnson shares his advice for small business owners</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192837">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robert Johnson describes the greatest challenge he has faced with his company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192838">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Robert Johnson describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192839">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Robert Johnson lists his favorites</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$5

DAStory

7$3

DATitle
Robert Johnson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt.2
Robert Johnson talks about the beginning of the Executive Leadership Council
Transcript
So that dynamic of having this constant flow of new housemates, whatever, is the sights and sounds of growing up, that dynamic, do you have anything that you want to share?$$Well, yeah. Well, it exposed you to a lot of people, exposed you to a lot of different people, and even at a young age, you began to sense that there were significant differences in people, and people's attitudes, the way they behaved toward each other, what they thought of the war, what they thought of the opportunities. There was a constant discussion in the house of how we as Negros at that time, how we as Negros would take advantage of the opportunities that were afforded us as a result of this war because jobs were plentiful and jobs that black people had been denied were grudgingly given to them because of the shortage of labor. Now, you could save that money, and this is a discussion that would go on, you could save that money, you could invest it, you could, you could use it for positive purposes or you could have a good time with it and drink it up and just you know play with it. And that was a--that was big discussion, you know, who was smart about their money. Now my father's socking all this money away cause he was renting rooms and you know at the end of--at the end of World War II, he had from various sources and I don't know all of them because I was--this happened between the time I was five to ten years old, but at the end of World War II he had saved four thousand dollars and with that he bought him-he bought an apartment building. So he was on the side of you know take advantage of these opportunities to advance yourself. And he was very critical of people who didn't see that opportunity and didn't see a relationship between opportunities made possible by the war and how you would advance yourself.$Oh, really. So how did this first meeting come about since you say you've never met each other before?$$There were a group of guys who got together in Texas to save a college. Wally, Wallace [sic, Bishop College, later, Paul Quinn College, Dallas, Texas] a black college in the Dallas area, and they were not successful, the college went under. But they decided to stay together and they came up with the idea of an African American support group for senior executives because they realized in coming together for this purpose how isolated they were, because in most cases you're not, at that time, maybe different today, you're not included in the informal networking of your fellow white business associates. And if you're excluded from there, and then, in most cases, your problems are not easily shared with people in your community, because there are so few of you that those experiences that you're having are relatively rare.$$Who were the first founding members, can you name as many as you can for us?$$[HistoryMaker James] Jim Kaiser, Vaughn Clarke, [HistoryMaker] Elynor Williams, [HistoryMaker] Toni Fay. Well that's something you should have asked me before the interview, I could have had the list.$$What year did it start?$$It started in 1985, yeah, 1985 [sic. 1986].$$Did any of the executives have a problem being a member of the [Executive Leadership] council as far as career because sometimes it can be seen that you're pulling yourself apart from, you know, the general population. Was that any problem?$$Yes. Many executives would not join the organization. And some who joined would not become active. They joined, paid their dues but never attended a meeting. And that's a real--that's a real problem. You isolate yourself when you do that. So you have to make a decision, is the value you're gonna get out of this worth the risk? My own attitude is that, that it is, that you cannot participate in a white organization and hide the fact that you're black. Black is the first thing they see about you, sometime black is the only thing they know about you. So you know to try to lower the profile of your blackness, I think, is quite--well, it's unlikely to happen, unlikely to be a benefit. And I have seen enough people to see people try both approaches and see the results of both approaches, and there's no difference.$$It's akin to taking off the mask?$$Yeah.